‘The Nanny’ Star, Charles Shaughnessy, Never Auditioned to Play Maxwell Sheffield, Despite Feeling Like He Should

The Nanny fans know Charles Shaughnessy as Maxwell Sheffield, the British theater producer who employed the ever-lovable nanny, Fran Fine. Before he took on the role of Maxwell, Charles Shaughnessy was best known for his work on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. While Shaughnessy didn’t think the role was big enough to get him a part sans an audition, his agent and higher-ups at CBS did. It turned out better than anyone expected. 

Charles Shaughnessy was a daytime TV veteran when he received the script for ‘The Nanny’ 

Charles Shaughnessy spent years playing Maxwell Sheffield, but it wasn’t his first big part. In fact, Shaughnessy was a regular on the soap opera circuit for years. It even looked like that’s where his career was going to settle. Then, he decided he needed a break. 

Charles Shaughnessy arrives at the Opening Night Of "Bright Star" at Ahmanson Theatre on October 20, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Shaugnessy is best known for his role as Maxwell Sheffield in 'The Nanny'
Charles Shaughnessy | Greg Doherty/Getty Images

During an interview on State of Mind, a YouTube series hosted by soap veteran Maurice Bernard, Shaughnessy recalled that he decided to take a break from daytime TV to see what else was out there. He was concerned that his time on Days of Our Lives would eventually limit the type of work he could get. Months later, the script he’d been waiting for showed up. He just didn’t know it at the time. His agent pushed him to read the script for The Nanny, insisting it was the best he had seen come across his desk for Shaughnessy. 

Charles Shaughnessy was a shoo-in for the role of Maxwell Sheffield 

Shaughnessy wasn’t entirely sure about The Nanny at first. He loved the script, but he was concerned the series would pigeonhole him as a “sitcom dad.” There was one other complication in Shaughnessy’s eyes. When he learned that Fran Drescher was cast as Nanny Fine, he worried the network was looking for a “big name” to draw an audience. At that point, Drescher was also relatively new to the scene. Shaughnessy was unknown in primetime circles. 

Shaughnessy told Bernard that he learned someone at the network was interested in him for the role, although he didn’t know exactly who. Instead of requesting an audition, his agent suggested he take a meeting. The decision proved to be a fruitful one. Following the meeting, everyone agreed that he was the right man for the part. 

Lauren Lane (as C.C. Babcock), Nicholle Tom (as Margaret 'Maggie' Sheffield); Benjamin Salisbury (as Brighton Sheffield); Charles Shaughnessy (as Maxwell Sheffield); Madeline Zima (as Grace Sheffield); Fran Drescher (as Fran Fine) and Daniel Davis (as Niles)
The cast of ‘The Nanny’ | CBS via Getty Images)
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A ‘The Nanny’ Fan Theory Could Explain Why Niles Never Took Another Job

Shaughnessy joined the cast of The Nanny as Maxwell Sheffield. Daniel Davis was cast as Niles, Maxwell’s loyal butler. Like Shaughnessy, Davis was fairly certain he wouldn’t land his role. Davis, just like his co-star, theorized that the network would want a bigger name to carry the show. He didn’t think he would have the star power to do so, he once said. Still, he was the right fit, and we can’t imagine anyone else playing either Maxwell or Niles.